Dinners in Nairobi

• ~500 words • 2 minute read


Nearly a year ago to the day I was in Nairobi, Kenya. I stayed with some of the nicest people I'd met anywhere and had one of the best multicultural experiences of my life. It was about as different a place as I'd ever gone and I think of it often. The culture, the people, the food and the surroundings were all new and exciting experiences for me. If you're traveling to Nairobi and want to stay with people who are actually from the area I cannot recommend my hosts more highly — check them out on Airbnb!

I felt especially fortunate that my hosts treated me to home-cooked meals nearly every night! One thing that is most definitely a constant anywhere you go in the world: home-cooked meals are always the best. In the picture above I'm enjoying  chapati (the flat bread, a little like naan), sukuma wiki (the darker greens hiding under the chapati) and some sort of beef stew-like thing that might've had a Swahili name but I don't recall. There's no ugali in this photo — hence the knife and fork, and with chapati that's probably enough starchy stuff  — but that was another staple of many of our meals together. It was probably my favorite simply because it was the most different than anything I'd normally eat; a sort of cornmeal cake the consistency of a homemade playdough. The proper way to eat it (Later I'd learn that there were different "styles" of eating the ugali. The people I was introduced to jokingly suggested you could tell where people were from and pass judgement on them based on their ugali style.) was to take a tiny piece, roll it into a ball, make an indent with your thumb, scoop up the other foods with the indentation and eat the whole thing. I took to this naturally, as I do any opportunity to play with my food.

Here's a shot with the ugali, sukuma wiki and some sort of delicious fish from Lake Victoria:


And another shot of another meal with ugali, this time on my plate:


I also remember the tea quite fondly (If you find yourself trekking over parts of the world touched by British colonialism you're likely to find two things: good tea and currency measured in shillings.). On the first or second morning there I asked "So what kind of tea is this?" They told me it was Kenya tea. That answer seemed oddly unspecific to me, so later I poked my head in the cupboard to see for myself. It was in fact... Kenya tea:



In fact, there were a lot of Kenya-specific products around that I became fascinated with. Like this book of matches:




My hosts must've thought I was the most boring person in the world, flying half-way around the world and taking pictures of food and books of matches...

...and blurry photos of people in nightclubs I was unwittingly dragged to...



...until 7am when we had to jump the car three times and get out and push it before making it about... halfway home...


...in parts of town I probably would not have gone exploring on my own...



...but that's different story for a different blog post. Or maybe not  :)